When I close my eyes and think about the all-loving God that I grew up knowing, I feel comforted like a warm blanket around my shoulders. The idea that if I pray hard enough, am good enough and it’s God’s plan everything will be OK, is one that I’ve subscribed to most of my life. The thought that having a “mustard seed’s” worth of faith can “move mountains” sustained me when questions and doubt have plagued me. Especially now — in such uncertain times when the COVID-19 pandemic, our government’s response to it and our actions and reactions to that dominate headlines and our social media feeds—this should be enough to see me through, but it’s not.
In my personal life manifesto, if you read it to the very end, I wrote, “Religion isn’t always truth. God is love. Fear is the enemy.” I believe this. I feel disillusioned with religion and have so now for several years. I’ve been afraid to write those words for fear of what others might think. Yet, my mind won’t let it go. If God has a plan and knows me, then He knows what paths my mind takes. He won’t let me rest until I write. And so here it is, my conundrum… Maybe like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, “God” is just another imaginary entity humans created to give us comfort in the knowledge that someday we all will die and hope that we will see our loved ones who have passed away again.
Even more so now, I’ve come to think that the world would be a better place with less religion rather than more. How many atrocities occurred and continue to occur in the name of a religion? It is just random happenstance, that I was born into a Christian family in the United States. I could just as easily have been born to a Muslim family in Iraq, a Hindu family in India, a Jewish family in Israel, a Buhdist family in China or an atheist family anywhere. People think strongly that their religion is the “right” one, but no one really knows definitively whose religion is the “right” or “wrong” one. Maybe they are all right or maybe none of them are. We are all biased. We believe what confirms our biases and dismiss or ignore the rest. My religion isn’t better or more right than anyone elses.
Politics and religion are typically two topics I’ve tried to avoid. Our country’s founders were clear on separating “church” and “state,” but they’ve become very entwined. Maybe, they always were? What’s the point of talking about something that riles everyone up and that you can’t really change anyway? Why should I care about public policies and agendas if they don’t affect me directly? Everyone has a right to their own opinions. Correct? On the flip side, why should I be afraid to share my thoughts and opinions? Our country was founded on freedom of speech. Why be afraid? Because, hate and retaliation are very real today. Name calling and belittling are not far-fetched responses to expect from those who disagree. Ignorance is bliss. Right? Am I better off not knowing what others’ political and religious views are? I long for the days of not knowing. However, I realize that this is not a luxury I can afford. I was privileged to not have to know as it didn’t really affect my life one way or the other. However, over the past few years I find it harder and harder to tamp down the uneasiness within me and remain quiet. Silence equals complicity. I believe this. Yet, reading posts and comments that are hateful, untrue and biased cause my blood pressure to rise, my stomach to turn and uneasiness to flow through my body. Responding doesn’t change anyone’s mind and seems to feed animosity. And so, I unfollow negative people, stop myself from reading comments on articles and limit the amount of news I view out of self-preservation. But does doing this, then make me complicit? This is where I struggle.
One of the basic teachings of Christianity can be found in Matthew 25:37-40
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. “Matthew 25:37-40 – NIV
Jesus did not teach that you only have to help the least of these if they are Christians and U.S. citizens. Thus, I have a hard time understanding how people can reconcile supporting President Trump and still consider themselves to be Christians. You only have to actually read the president’s Twitter feed or listen to one of his speeches to know that he does not remotely align with any of these core teachings. What does the economy matter, when people are hungry, sick and seeking shelter and we turn them away? Will a great economy, make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren if our water and air is polluted? What does it matter if taxes are lower, when our national debt grows? What does it matter if business is booming, if people are dying from COVID-19 and our health care system is overwhelmed?
When do his supporters finally wake up and admit they made a mistake in voting for and supporting this man? He is more concerned about his ratings, blaming others (the Democrats, the Fake News, the elite academics, Obama, Clinton and on and on), than he is in taking responsibility for his mistakes and being an empathetic leader. Yes, we should rally around our president in times of trial and put partisian politics aside. However, there is also a time to take a hard look at whether this president can look beyond his own ego and selfishness to do what is best for our country. Yes, both political parties have their flaws. There is name calling, lies and corruption all around. However, two wrongs have never made a right. I may not agree with all of Governor DeWine’s policies, but he makes me proud to be an Ohioian. He embodies the leadership and empathy that we need right now.
I would rather pay higher taxes, if it means helping those less fortunate, ensuring everyone has affordable healthcare and housing and protecting our environment. Sure, there will always be people that would take advantage of said help, who don’t really need it, but I’d rather the help still be available to those who do. If that makes me a liberal, socialist, elitist or any other “ist” so be it. I own it. I would much rather live in a kinder, less selfish world.